Celebrations are in order! Liberian women have shown how bold they are and what they can achieve. It was a herculean task bursting through the pervasive male dominance and electing the first female president in Africa.
This was after they had prayed on the streets in rain and sunshine, travelled to Accra and blocked the doors to the meeting room to prevent the men who were largely responsible for the war from getting out until a peace accord was signed. Their actions brought peace to Liberia and paved the way for a smooth transition to a democratically elected government. It is Liberian rural women who feed us by tilling the soil daily to feed us. It is the market women who wake up at the crack of dawn to set up their stalls, hawking vegetables, fruits and dried fish, dokafleh (used clothes), to send their children to school. It is the Liberian women who nursed their husbands and children back to health or watch them die in their arms from the deadly Ebola virus.
ALL HAIL THE WOMEN OF LIBERIA!
Women from all across Liberia and some parts of the world gathered at the Samuel K Doe Stadium in Paynesville to celebrate the bold achievements they have made. The event was part of the global observance of International Women’s Day and to celebrate the legacy of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president in Africa. Seminar discussions centered on the lessons learned from women’s experiences of greater participation in all sectors of society where they are now found. It is no question that no society can fully develop without the contribution and participation of women and girls. Though great strides have been made, it is clear that greater access to education, technology, financing, and inclusion in decision making at all levels will reap huge benefits for society and improve the lives of women. Moving forward, more strategic engagement and networking, use of information, communication technology are essential to increasing women’s confidence and giving them a greater voice in society. This means that when women speak we must listen and respect what they are saying.
Say what you may about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf but she dared to blaze the trail to the pinnacle of political leadership in Africa. We must credit her for the peace that we have enjoyed in the last TWELVE years and do all we can to sustain this hard earned peace. She gave marginalized women, rural farmers, and market women space to speak; and gave young girls the confidence that they can be all that they aspire to be. For two days, speaker after speaker from the international community reminded Liberians who tend to forget the significance of this President. “Madam President you are our pride,” said the Speaker of Parliament of Rwanda, Madam Moukabalisa Donatille.
Women must remain in leadership positions in Liberia. To the men who say “we will never let a woman be president again,” just remember you are talking about your daughters, your granddaughters and your wives. Would you not like to see them become leaders? Before Ellen was President, men ran the country throughout Liberia’s history. It is unfair to ban women from the presidency because of your perceptions of Ellen’s leadership. It has not been a perfect presidency, but then which presidency was? President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will stand tall in history. As her presidency comes to an end, we must begin to put it in the right perspective considering the tremendous challenges she faced rebuilding Liberia after fourteen years of civil war which decimated the entire fabric of the Liberian society. It is okay to talk about her shortcomings and we will never hesitate to call her out on them, but we must also celebrate and appreciate the significance and achievements of her presidency.